Leicester Market Sound

Leicester people remember the market. These extracts are from interviews conducted in the 1980s by the Leicester Oral History Archive.

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Early Days  1.38 minutes  

Well I started in October 1933, er, what was the market like? Er, to begin with it was a three day market on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. Monday, Tuesday and Thursday there were very very few stalls occupied and these in the main are by fruiterers who wanted to get rid of the, for instance on Thursday they get rid of the Wednesday market's holdover so that they had fresh supplies for Friday and Saturday; Monday, again, just to get rid of the oddments. And it wasn't really until after the last war that the Monday, Tuesday and Thursday - we call the off-day markets - really, er, got off the ground. Now it's a full six day market.

Um, there are a number of reasons for this, er, pure economics of the situation, er, short supply after the war which made the modern extra days trading and, um, the need to, to earn a little, a little more cash; and er, then again, er, when the economic situation had to get a bit freezy, second hand trade flourished and this came out on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Er, they're an awful lot of second hand goods there now.

A market generally, you see, it doesn't do badly at any time. Because when, when business is flourishing, people have got an extra cash alright, they go into town, they do the shopping and walk through the market, well they've got a quid or two in their pocket, they'll buy something. When times are hard they go to the market because, well it's cheap, you can save a little bit here. And these, these are the main reasons I think why the off-days have proliferated - the only word for it.

 

Pitchers  1.02 minutes  

Don't forget, in the 1920s to the '30s, when unemployment was really rife, and you lived by what you had to get, if you hadn't got anything you were skint, so you had to have a go, and this is where the people that had got that bit of personality, that little bit of entertainment, could think up some idea to take on the market. And there's going to be many of your listeners who remember these people.

A pitcher, now they're the only people I knew in the market. Everybody were a pitcher, and a pitcher - to a pitcher - is known as a grafter, because he went out and had a go. There's a big difference between a grafter and a stall holder. The difference is, a stall holder sells you what you want and a good grafter, he sells you what you don't want, 'til you get home and find out what you've got!

 

Entertainment  1.04 minutes  

And then there was the (coughs) sausage stalls, see 'em cooking the sausages there, and hot peas, hot buns and all like that. Electrical machine - be an old man there, you stand on a plate and see how much electricity you could stand, ho ho, oh dear. Yeah, and then to see our market place cleared all out, which it was cleared every Saturday night, and then there used to be tub thumpers for show, for er, er,  for anything that was going, they was spouting for elections an' all like that, and then occasionally you'd see the old volunteers parade there, and the militia, 'cos it's a wonderful open space. The only thing in, in the centre - it's still there now - is the Duke of Rutland (coughs) I feel sure he's still there.

 

Caged Animals  0.52 minutes  

In the market too, they used to have stalls with um, er, animals for sale, like they do abroad, you see, hens in cages and that sort of thing, and dogs in cages. They used to sell everything like that in the open market. Course that's been stopped for years, but I remember we used to go and, and, er, pigeons, birds, 'specially the, er, talking birds. I remember we used to make for this stall where these talking birds were, 'cos, er, they used to say 'Hello, hello' and all, and we thought, well, marvellous. So, I mean, it's so simple to, to now that you're almost afraid of telling anybody, they'll think it's not true, but that's, that was how it was then.

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